Reflecting On Acknowledgements

Just over eleven years ago I wrote this in the front of my thesis:

A thesis might be written by one person, but that one person could not possibly write it without many, many more people helping and supporting them. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those who have helped me over the last four years.

First and foremost I have to thank my family, my mum Susan and my sisters Rebecca and Sophie, for their love, support and encouragement.

Thanks to Professor Hugh Morton, my supervisor, who has been a great mentor and a patient teacher throughout my studies.

I’ve made many friends while studying at Liverpool, and there are a few I want to thank in particular. I’d like to thank Shaine, Andy, John and Angela – “The Mathematicians” – thank you all for your example, your help, your humour, and your friendship; thank you Helena for being a great office-mate and for making me think more mathematically; thank you Rachel for being a fantastic and supportive friend. I’m so lucky that we did our PhDs together.

I acknowledge financial support from EPSRC and the Department of Mathematical Sciences; my thanks to both, especially for giving me the chance to attend conferences in the UK and abroad.

In my first lecture at Liverpool the lecturer began, “There is a famous proverb, three things come not back: the said word, the sped arrow, and the missed opportunity.” I’d like to think that I’ve made the most of my time at Liverpool; thank you to everyone who has been a part of it.

I’m always happy to see the acknowledgements page in someone’s thesis. Acknowledgements are a nice way to say thank you, and sometimes a way of adding something personal to what could (in some fields) be quite an impersonal thesis.

They’re also good to help us reflect on how we got to where we are.

A PhD and a thesis don’t just happen. However much work you do, you don’t do it without help. I owe a lot to the practical and emotional support that others gave me during my PhD. I owe a lot to the support I continue to get now.

Reflect, as your PhD journey comes to a conclusion, on how other people have helped you get to where you are. Find the moments in your story where that help has been most helpful. Say thank you, and if you have the chance, think about how you could make a difference in the future to someone on their PhD journey.

Use Your Acknowledgements Page

The acknowledgements page of a thesis is a lovely opportunity to be thankful.

Thank your supervisors for all they’ve done.

Thank your family and friends by name.

Thank your funders if you have them.

Thank anyone who has really helped.

Looking back at mine, and at others I’ve seen, the acknowledgements page is a time capsule. A little slice of a time when you were someone else. I’ve not stayed in touch with many of the friends who helped me through my PhD. That page reminds me of who I have to be thankful to, and who made a difference.

Say thank you.